Following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Westboro Baptist case, Sarah Palin reacted with characteristic thoughtfulness.
She tweeted, “common sense & decency absent as wacko ‘church’ allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square.”
Put aside the fact that 8 of the 9 justices, including Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Thomas, and Justice Scalia were in the majority. That is an issue Palin might address at some later point.
More interesting is her reference to the “public square”. What exactly is she talking about?
We can’t invoke God’s name in the public square?
Don’t we do it all the time?
Didn’t she just do it?
Don’t a plurality, or maybe a majority, of Americans accept some reference to God in our public life?
The fact is, we invoke God’s name and refer to Him constantly in political life.
So what is her beef?
Does she want more references to God in our debates about tax and health policy?
Does she want to reference God in abortion policy debates, even though the pro-life community has tried for decades to demonstrate the truth of their position via human reason alone?
What’s left for her? Is there much more than allowing for prayer in schools and discrimination against homosexuals on religious grounds?
In some ways it is unfair to single out Palin. Mike Huckabee was a regular offender on this front in 2008. But in the end it is worth asking these candidates how their religiously clothed public square would be any different than today’s.
When Fr. Neuhaus coined this phrase thirty years ago he was diagnosing a particular problem in a sophisticated manner. Too often today, politicians like Palin cheaply deploy it to encourage and benefit from a politics of victimhood.